A look at the underclassmen and incoming recruits for the Pitt Panthers basketball team:
James Robinson, So.- Solidly built 6'3" 200 pound point guard. One of the best assist to turnover ratios in the country in both of his seasons. Last year he had a 2.8 assist to turnover ratio and 3.5 apg. Thus far this season he has a 5.0 assist to turnover ratio and is averaging 3.9 apg. As a scorer Robinson is not much of a threat but he's clearly improved since his freshman season, and there's no reason to believe that he won't continue to do so. As a freshman Robinson averaged 6.1 ppg, while this season he currently is at 7.6 ppg. He's also improved his FG% (36.8% to 41.9%), three point FG% (31.3% to 32.0%), and FT% (79.2% to 88.1%). As a rebounder he is solid for his position and could be even better thanks to his solid build. Defensively, he's only gotten about 1.0 spg in his career so far but he is one of the team's best defenders thanks to his brains, positioning, and body. Former top 75 prospect.
Bottom line- It's safe to say that he'll be a four year starter for the Panthers. He's not flashy and he will never put up big numbers but he's smart, steady, and solid.
Durand Johnson, RS So.- The 6'6" redshirt sophomore likes to shoot from the outside a lot when he's in the game and that may be part of his problem. There's no doubt that Johnson can get hot from three and when he does he should ride it. But he's shooting 30.5% from three this season and he's been cold for quite awhile. In fact, he has been 5-27 from three in his last seven games. Johnson is not exceptional at rebounding, passing, or defense, so if he's not shooting it's a problem. And when he does shoot poorly like he's doing now he should take it to the basket more. he doesn't do that often enough but when he does it usually ends up in a basket or a foul. The fact that he's made 86.4% of his FTs this season is even more reason to take it to the basket more.
Bottom line- He's basically a designated shooter and if he doesn't shoot well enough he may find himself being passed over by some of the younger guns that are entering the program.
Joseph Uchebo, RS So.- The 6'10" 260 pound center has NBA ability but he also has an injury that may ruin his career. Coming out of high school Uchebo was in high demand and committed to NC State. But coming from Nigeria his transcripts did not translate and he ended up at Chipola JC in Florida. When healthy Uchebo has a great wingspan, good hands, above average athleticism, good passing slills, some decent low post offensive skills, very good shot blocking, and excellent rebounding. Like I said, he has NBA potential. But he's now lost a year and a half due to a micro fracture in his knee, a serious injury that may prevent him from ever playing at a high level again. Former top 100 prospect.
Bottom line- He has been cleared to play, and even that is a bit of a victory, but he has yet to see the court. If he heals completely he could be the inside presence that the Panthers desperately need. At the very least it would be great if he can add some quality minutes at his career. ALl of that is still up inthe air though.
Sheldon Jeter, RS So.- The 6'8" 225 pound Jeter, a Beaver Falls, PA native, was not offered by Pitt when he came out of high school even though he was a consensus top 100 prospect. Eventually Jeter chose Vanderbilt over the likes of Wisconsin and Kansas State. Jeter did well in his freshman season starting 7 games and playing in all 33 games. He averaged 5.5 ppg and 3.4 rpg. He also shot an impressive 47.1% from the field and 39.1% from three. It's shooting, and more specifically scoring, is Jeter's forte. He's a very good three point shooter but unlike a lot of very good three point shooters he also can drive (he had some thunderous dunks at Vandy) and has a very good mid-range game. His long arms and athleticism also makes him a very good rebounder. Spent time in Florida this year with former Robert Morris coach Matt Furjanic to improve his ball handling and defense. Former top 100 prospect.
Bottom line- Don't underestimate Jeter. When he transferred he was pursued by the likes of Ohio State and Georgetown. The fact that he was a tweener is why Pitt passed on him the first time but the Panthers are hoping that a year in the SEC and a few months with Furjanic will help his defense and ball handling enough for him to move permanently to SF. That's where the staff wants him and where he's penciled in to start next year. Now he has to prove he can play the position because if he does he has the offensive potential to possibly reach 15 ppg in the future.
Chris Jones, RS Fr.- After a redshirt season the 6'6" Jones has not played much this season but when he has he has shown that he has talent. He's averaging 6.0 minutes a game this year and is averaging 2.8 ppg. He also has proved to be a good shooter in his limited time making 50% (10-20) of his shots from the field (10-20), and 100% (11-11) from the free throw line. The skill to get to the line 11 times in such a limited time is promising. Also a good passer.
Bottom line- Is he one of those players, like a Cameron Wright, that people write off before turning into a very good starter, or will he get passed over by the more heralded prospects coming into the program?
Mike Young, Fr.- The starter at power forward all season, pretty impressive for a true freshman. The 6'8" 245 pound Young still gets overpowered at times when in the paint, but that's more about a lack of confidence than size and strength. Averaging 6.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg, as well as shooting 40.6% from the field and 30% from three. At the line he is shooting an incredible 85.7%. Former top 100 prospect.
Bottom line- Should be a four starter and will only get better. Look for him to eventually average at least 12 ppg and 8 rpg. He can shoot threes and free throws, pass, run, and rebound, and he should start coming into his own next season.
Josh Newkirk, Fr.- The 6'1" PG has looked good at times but he clearly has a lot of improvement that needs to take place. In 14.6 minutes a game, he's averaging 3.8 ppg, 1.6 apg, and 42.6% from the field. But he's shooting only 31.6% from three and 12.5% (1-8) from the line.
Bottom line- Lightening quick and he has the potential to be very good on both the offensive and defensive side in the future, but he better be because he has major competition as Robinson's heir apparent.
Jamel Artis, Fr.- The 6'7" forward is the team's most pleasant surprise this season. Averaging 15.5 minutes a game, Artis started slow but now gives great minutes in every game. For the season he's averaging 5.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, while shooting a superb 52.1% from the field. He has also showed a nice touch from three shooting 42.9% (3-7), and 78.3% from the line.
Bottom line- Young is slated to be a four year starter but it won't be by default because Artis is capable of wrestling the job away from him. He may also be able to take the job away from Jeter if he can not handle the three.
Detrick Mostella, 2014- Will he ever make to Pitt? Who knows? I was told for months that he probably won't enroll at Pitt this year and that looks like it will be the case. But Pitt would still love to land him next year and he was placed at Notre Dame Prep so that he would remain with Pitt. Will Mostella still want to come to Pitt knowing they are going to be loaded at his position in the future? Again, time will tell. But the 6'3" Mostella can flat out shoot and he would be a great addition to the Panthers. He really is not adapt at anything but shooting, a lot like Durand Johnson, but he's a better shooter than Johnson. In fact, when he gets on a streak, which he often does, he is unstoppable. Top 75 prospect.
Bottom line- You can never have enough elite shooters and if they can still get him next year the Panthers will take him, but this will be an unknown for awhile yet.
Ryan Luther, 2014- The local product is a versatile 6'8" combo forward that can do a little bit of everything. Has range out to three, is a very good passer, and he can rebound. Interesting prospect.
Bottom line- The most interesting thing about Luther is that it's believed that he could grow to 6'10", which all of a sudden makes him very interesting. A 6'10" combo forward that can do a little bit of everything is a very good weapon so don't underestimate him because he's from the WPIAL.
Shaquille Doorson, 2014- Very tough and strong at a legitimate 6'11" and 265 pounds. Playing at the prestigious Canarias Basketball Academy though he's from The Netherlands. Very raw offensively but good defensively and athletic. His real forte is rebounding where he uses his toughness and nastiness to be a force.
Bottom line- He will have a long way to go to learn how to play offense but as long as he can rebound as well as he should be able to, he will see time on the court. But if Uchebo is healthy next year, Doorson may redshirt.
Damon Wilson, 2015- A long 6'5" PG that may get even taller. Playing at a high level high school program and has been through the wars already. Very good passer who is excellent at directing the offense. Excellent defender and will rebound very well for the position due to his height. Good offensive player who is getting better and better. Quickly rising prospect who is already top 100. If he develops his offensive game a lot he could be ranked even higher.
Bottom line- As of now he may be the heir apparent at PG, but if he keeps growing he may end up moving to SG. But make no mistake about it, he is coming to Pitt so that he can be a PG. Basically a taller, more athletic James Robinson with more offensive skills at the same stage.
Mustapha Heron, 2016- This is the biggie. Heron will be the most well rounded and most talented guard that ever entered the program. A top 15, and maybe future top 10, prospect, the 6'4" Heron has no real weaknesses despite only being a sophomore in high school. At 6'4" he can play either guard spot, can score anywhere on the floor including threes and the free throw line, and can also pass, defend, and rebound at a high degree.
Bottom line- A potential superstar and he has the mature mental makeup to reach the level that he's destined for. He will start immediately, probably at the two. And he could grow a few inches yet.
Maverick Rowan, 2016- Local phenom is already 18 years old and will graduate high school when he is 20, unless he leaves a year early which is possible since Rowan purposely repeated a grade when he was younger. Skinny and has to improve his defense, but he's already 6'6' or 6'7" and can flat out shoot. Top 50 prospect potential.
Bottom line- May keep growing, which would make it interesting if he ends up being a 6'9" sharpshooting small forward. Should start as a small forward early on in his career and as the potential to be a big time college player.
Cheick Diallo, 2015- Top 10 power forward who, at 6'9", would play center at Pitt. That may hurt their chances, but he's a teammate of Wilson and the Panthers have been in hot pursuit for at least a year. He came to Pitt's Midnight (kinda) Madness but the Panthers will be a long shot because of the competition.
Caleb Swanigan, 2016- Giant 6'8" 275 pound center from Indiana. He also came to Pitt's Midnight Madness. Top 50 prospect that's, shall we say, beefy, but he moves well despite his massive girth and has great touch around the rim. A below the rim player who just carves out space and dares anybody to come into the paint. After Heron committed he tweeted that "everybody loves Slice" so it's safe to say that Pitt has a good chance to land him despite his highly impressive offer list.
Kassoum Yakwe, 2016- Top 50 small forward, the 6'7" athlete is teammates with Wilson and Diallo, and he was also at Pitt for Midnight Madness. Raw but crazy athletic. Huge upside. Has many impressive offers already including Pitt.